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Bound to Violence: A Novel

Bound to Violence: A Novel

Current price: $19.99
Publication Date: September 26th, 2023
Other Press
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This critical edition of the epic 1968 Malian novel explores its enduring literary power and the racist plagiarism scandal that devastated its author, the first African winner of France’s prestigious Renaudot Prize.

An engrossing, tragic tale spanning the thirteenth to the twentieth century, Bound to Violence recounts the fate of the imaginary empire of Nakem and the dynasty of the Saïfs who reign there as devious masters.

While the novel was initially praised as an insider’s guide to and critique of African history, with its vivid descriptions of the brutality of local rulers and the slave trade, Yambo Ouologuem’s biting satire goes far beyond his native land. Through the society of Nakem, he paints a universally relevant portrait of sex, violence, and power in human relationships. 

In this new edition of Ralph Manheim’s vigorous translation, professor and award-winning documentary filmmaker Chérif Keïta provides invaluable context for the novel, whose publication in the West was mired by accusations of plagiarism, fraught with racist undertones.

About the Author

Yambo Ouologuem was a Malian writer born into an aristocratic family. In 1960 he went to Paris, where he studied sociology, philosophy, and English at Lycée Henri-IV, and from 1964 to 1966 he taught at the Lycée de Charenton while studying for a doctorate in sociology at the École Normale Supérieure. His poetry has been anthologized in Poems of Black Africa, edited by Wole Soyinka, and The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry, edited by Gerald Moore and Ulli Beier. Met with critical acclaim in France, Ouologuem won the Renaudot Prize for his debut novel Bound to Violence.

Ralph Manheim was an American translator of German and French literature who graduated from Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. He translated into English works by Bertolt Brecht, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Martin Heidegger, and Hermann Hesse. Manheim received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a prize from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a National Book Award, and honors from PEN.

Chérif Keïta is William H. Laird Professor of French and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College. A native of Mali, he has published books and articles on both social and literary problems in contemporary Africa. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker, with a trilogy of films about some of the founding figures of the African National Congress of South Africa.

Praise for Bound to Violence: A Novel

Bound to Violence, a first novel, is a great one…It deserves many readings…Most amazing about this novel is that, with its deathless characters who slip easily through the centuries and who deal in the extra‐natural and supernatural, its bone‐chilling black satire, it is like the works of Ishmael Reed and William Melvin Kelley’s last novel.” —New York Times Book Review
“Conveys, through Ralph Manheim’s translation, a startling energy of language.” —The New Yorker
“A sweeping portrait of African history with plenty of sex and violence…hailed as a masterpiece…Ouologuem was a fascinating, multifaceted character and a gifted author whose book…marked a turning point for French-language literature from the African continent.” —New Lines Magazine